Why Can’t I?

Okay, lots to report this week. Covered many miles with the feets. Just discovered Kaitlin has a blister on one. Many miles.

Anyway, starting with Friday. We went to Trinity, obviously, and saw the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells continues to be really cool, I just marvel at how intricate the decorations are, it’s hardly to be believed. Then, on our way to Dublin Castle, we saw a sign for Nutella hot chocolate, which is apparently a thing, and immediately stopped and had some. It was delicious beyond words.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Me, when the Nutella hot chocolate was gone 😩 (Also, a bear)

Then it was on to the castle. Now, when I say castle, most people (American and European alike) have a very particular sort of image in their minds, so I want to say right out–no, it’s not really a castle. It was, several hundred years ago, but now it’s mostly just buildings that are vaguely cool, but nothing special. The exciting things are inside, it’s lavish and lovely. Also, surprise, there was a 1916 exhibit thing since the castle was used as a hospital during WWI and one of the leaders of the Rising was brought there for treatment before his execution.

Saturday, we did a bit of prehistoric Ireland at Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Newgrange is part of a series of Stone Age structures (predating the pyramids at Giza) that served basically unknown purposes. All we really know about them is 1) human ashes were kept inside 2) they align with various astronomical moments–Newgrange is sunrise on the Winter Solstice and 3) they were in use for possibly thousands of years. Newgrange is the only one we saw, but it’s super cool, lots of excitingly carved stones that very much summon up spirits of sort of Celtic something or other. The Hill of Tara was something of a seat of power in ancient/early medieval Ireland as the site of the coronations of the High Kings (which, let’s be real, is way cooler a title than normal King). There’s a specific mound there, the so-called Mound of the Hostages, that predates even Newgrange, though is much less impressive-looking. Anyway, it was all very cool.

Sunday was the actual, calendar-date 100th anniversary of the Rising, and the political party Sinn FĂ©in (Shin Fane) hosted what I think was meant to be a parade on O’Connell Street. In the event, at least as far as we ever saw, it was a bunch of people in silly costumes sporadically playing bagpipes and marching a few steps before taking a very long break. It was underwhelming, but about what I expected, since the main celebrations by everyone else happened like a month ago.

On Monday morning, we left Dublin to see a bit of the West. Galway was our destination and what I thought was meant to be a two and a half hour bus ride ended up being four and a half. The first of several bungles on my part which I will not elaborate on here for reasons of my dignity 😉 Anyway, we spent the day in Galway just wandering around a bit. Honestly, there’s not loads within Galway itself, though it’s not a city without its charms. Highlight of the day was probably eating lunch out by the water. Though it was very (very) windy, it was also sunny and that (mostly) made up for it. Also, there were cookies.

On Tuesday (details omitted) we went to the Aran Islands, specifically, Inishmore, the largest. Lots of cool details about the island (that it has a population of about 840, that it first got electricity in 1975, that one of the two primary schools has 22 students) but I think I’ll keep it to about that. I had already been two years ago when I visited Ireland while studying abroad in England. But it was lovely to see it again, and to actually see it with someone else. On the island, there are four Iron Age forts, the biggest and coolest of which is DĂșn Aonghasa (Dun Aengus, if you will). It sits on top of a giant cliff (okay, giant, it’s about 300 feet) and is surrounded by a field of spiky rocks meant to prevent charges. Basically, it’s super cool and, while the whole island is pretty neat, definitely my favorite part. Here, also, we were graced with wonderful weather that threatened rain (and did actually, a couple times) but was mostly sunny. At the end of the day, we caught the night bus back to Dublin which was an hour shorter than our journey outward.

Yesterday, we museumed most of the day. In fact, I’ve only been to one museum here and that’s the one we didn’t go to. We did Natural History, Archeology, and the National Gallery. It was very nice. Learned lots about Ireland, mostly ancient Ireland, and got to see some rad bog bodies (they all had red hair, surprise). Also, a genuinely surprising amount of gold. So much gold–gold bracelets, gold necklaces, gold earrings, gold ball things that we’re not sure what they were used for… All the gold. Who knew.

Today, we had some good plans but were finally foiled by the rain. Not actually foiled, but it did rather get me in a bad mood. My apologies, Kaitlin. Anyway, we found some pavlova (after much ado) and that was basically the only triumph for the day. But.

This week, I’ve also encountered some good quotes which I will include here before finishing with a quick little pair of poems. Firstly, one from an exhibit at the National Gallery. It’s something Salman Rushdie said about The Wizard of Oz in a book he wrote, and I thought it was an interesting thought. Especially since I’m not ‘home’ and neither is Kaitlin, and neither of us foresee returning there, at least not to live.

Anybody who has swallowed up scriptwriters’ notion that this is a film about the superiority of ‘home’ over ‘away’…would do well to listen to the yearning in Judy Garland’s voice as her face tilts up toward the skies. What she expresses here, what she embodies with the purity of an archetype, is the human dream of leaving, a dream at least as powerful as it’s countervailing dream of roots. At the heart of The Wizard of Oz is the tension between these two dreams; but as the music swells and that big, clean voice flies into the anguished longings of the song, can anyone doubt which message is the stronger? In its most potent emotional moment, this is unarguably a film about the joys of going away, of leaving the greyness and entering the colour, of making a new life in the ‘place where there isn’t any trouble’… It is a celebration of Escape, a grand paean to the uprooted self, a hymn–the hymn–to Elsewhere.

As one who feels keenly the tension between those dreams, and who feels very deeply the emotions of that song, I just had to share. Somewhere. Somewhere over the rainbow.

Then, just a couple short ones by Oscar Wilde, a renowned wit and generally cool guy. Some of these you may be familiar with. But also, he’s worth repeating.

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.

Who, being loved, is poor?

This has been a long blog post, I know, but lots has happened. And I just like sharing things with you guys. So anyway, here’s a poem pairing for this week. They’re by Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets of all time (around there with Edna St Vincent Millay and Emily Dickenson). As promised, they’re very brief. But they say something that I really needed to hear today and which I think we all can benefit from.

A Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

A Minor Bird

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

 

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

Kaitlin is Here

Some exciting news: my sister is here visiting!! She’s just finished her last placement in her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and is graduating in a couple weeks. I’m super pumped, we have some great plans to do some Ireland exploring while she’s here, I’m sure I’ll let you know all about it in the next couple of posts.

This week I also met with my dissertation supervisor for the first time, having been allocated to him at the end of last week. We had a solid introduction and a great little brainstorming session about sources and the direction I want to take my project. I have loads more reading to do just to establish a deep background and to refine my topic even further. Should be interesting, good things happening I think.

Also, some cat pictures to keep you up to date with all things cat. I love them a lot.

I’ve been thinking about sociology a bit this week–not directly related to my dissertation, but just generally. And social sciences, as I consider myself (lightly) a social scientist. In the US (and in other places too, I know), there’s been a lot of emphasis in the last, I don’t know, maybe ten years on STEM subjects in school. Now, believe you me, I am 100% in support of that emphasis because out knowledge bases in those areas have been lagging behind their critical importance. I just found it interesting that one of the things people say about this STEM-heavy curriculum is that it’s incredibly important for the society we’re living in. But no one’s talking about the importance of the social sciences which are important because we live in a society. In particular, I fall into that generally non-quantitative, less positivist camp within the social sciences–basically, where ‘real’ scientists take the mick (an Anglo-Irish phrase basically meaning ‘to deride’) out of me for talking about people as human beings instead of rational actors. Even the more sciencey-mathy areas of social science, like economics, have received rather short shrift. I feel like basic economics should be required in high school–which it is in some places, but not where I went (though I took it electively).

Here’s the thing. I just sort of feel like I’m left out a bit of things in school. First, there’s the whole thing where sports trumps the arts every time, which was tough as I am not at all sporty but highly musical (though I’ve stayed out of visual art–with good reason). Then, within academia, it’s all about math and natural sciences because everyone knows you can’t get a job with a humanities degree. And as someone with a BA in International Relations, I can tell you that the struggle is real. But. Learning about the world around us is absolutely critical to developing an educated citizenry and making the world a better place. The thing to remember (which I think we all do implicitly anyway) is that the world around us is made up not only of molecules and forces and energies but also people and societies and ideas. Again, I’m totally in support of math and science. I just don’t want the rest of us to be sidelined either.

So I’m sure that was super interesting reading for all of you. Remember that paper I said I wrote as a blog post? Just be glad I’m not posting that here, because it’s 3,000 words and, though I tried really hard to make it accessible, still really academicky. So moving on to the poetry selection for this week.

This week, I’ve chosen two poems because they’re both quite short. The first is by Yeats (rhymes with gates, if you’ve been unsure), one of the most well-known of the Irish poets and for good reason. The second is by Shel Silverstein, an American poet and writer beloved of my childhood, author of such wonderful anthologies as A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends. They’re a bit of an interesting pairing, but I think there’s a connection that sort of embraces the philosophy of you do you. It’s not like anyone else could do you better. Anyway, enjoy.

A Coat

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.

Masks
She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by–
And never knew.

Pathos, Bathos, and the Bones of a Goat that was Born on a Sunday

This week marked the first week post-classes. I still have one more assignment, a fairly brief paper due Monday, and then I’ll truly be full-time dissertationing. Or, at least, that’s the general idea. We’ll see how that goes. One way or another, the coming months are sure to feature many days spent marathoning Nightmares in Dissertation Writing, my new show on Netflix (except not actually, I would never wish that on Netflix). The first two episodes weren’t great, but I’ll power through the whole series somehow.

Also, as regards this week’s title, I basically just wanted to use the word bathos. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s essentially a abrupt change from high, pathetic (in the literary sense) language to mundane, vulgar language. It’s often used for comic effect, but sometimes is done accidentally by people genuinely thinking they’re writing some lofty sentiment. Anyway, there’s a Wikipedia article on it if you’d like to investigate further. As far as the goat thing goes, two hundred points to anyone who knows the reference.

Also, totally unrelated to everything else in this post but important to me as a human being, I have a brief public service announcement. I often see things on Facebook that I disagree with, like politically. I like this, because it challenges me to really think about what I believe. Sometimes, though, there are gross factual errors. Normally, I don’t do anything about them. But I ought. Anyway: the gender wage gap. It has to do with the difference between men and women’s wages for the same job, not just average salaries of men and women or whatever. Women do tend to work fewer (paid) hours in jobs with lower salaries (which is both related to choice of career and the social construction of problematic gender roles), but that’s not really the core of the wage gap issue. There’s a helpful, brief video by John Green that tries to explain it, I think it’s a pretty well-thought and researched video. It’s obviously a super complicated topic, but it’s super important to think about complicated topics. Because informed citizens and things. Also, just being a good person. So there’s that. Sorrynotsorry for that little interlude.

So I went with a couple friends from church to Carlingford this past Saturday (while doing everything in my power to not do work). The forecast called for rain all day, but we were blessed with gorgeous weather. We went to hike up this…thing. I want to call it a mountain (because we climbed it and it was really crazy steep) but I can’t because it was actually just a hill. Ireland, you may be aware, has nothing that I would qualify as a mountain though, in its defense, it is far from flat.

Anyway, we got lost literally like two minutes into the walk. Luckily, we happened upon someone who knew his way around. He very kindly guided us around to the right path, which we promptly lost again, briefly, before finally getting onto the hill/mountain/big rocky thing springing out of the sea. The issue with going up meant that, while it continued to be mostly sunny, it ceased to be warm due to a wind insistent that I not get too pleased with the view. When nearly to the top, we (for reasons utterly unknown) decided to go as fast as we could to the end. This was problematic primarily for two reasons: it was incredibly slippery (rivulets and puddles all the way up, no idea where the water was coming from) and it was incredibly steep. In the interest of honesty, I should say that we didn’t actually go all the way to the top because of aforementioned sweatiness and general leg wobbliness, but we did get to the highest point overlooking the town. To go higher, we would have had to go backwards and lose sight of it. And on the way down I only slipped and fell once, which is remarkable if you only knew how very slippery and steep it was. Now, I’m not sure if I’ve said this already, but this big rocky thing was very slippery and very steep.

After the climb, we just walked around town for a bit, enjoying the castle, the marina, and a delightful little cafĂ©. All in all, it was a wonderful visit to a wonderful town, definitely would recommend. It’s up in County Louth, right near the border, and it’s just a lovely area. The stereotypical Irish countryside with rolling green fields and loads of sheep. It was the perfect time, too, not only because of the weather but because of the lambs. So many lambs. Precious. And, of course, driving back into Dublin it hailed, then rained, then was sunny again. Because spring.

And on that note, the poem for this week. Again, this is one of my own compositions, meant to correspond directly with Autumn Rhapsody, a poem I posted in November as a part of a celebration of autumnal poetry. While this month is not exclusively spring-inspired, I thought I would write a sort of counterpart. It’s rather a paean to this season, a time neither of remembering nor forgetting but looking ahead. I hope you enjoy it.

Awakening Persephone
I leave the ill-lit pages of my dusty book to rise
and open the curtains—now is not a time for sitting
but venturing into the blossom of the morning as it ripens
like sun-kissed fruit hanging delectably on the vine. The honey-light
streams into the kitchen and I depart the constructed world
to breathe clearer breath beneath better skies untouched
by feeble hands. Under the sun’s strengthening rays,
branches only yesterday dead seem to tremble with life scarcely
concealed. The perfume of good, green things invites a hope
which cannot be dashed, even by sudden onslaughts of unexpected
rain. Quagmires of last year’s leaves and winter’s detritus and
time spent in still solemnity give way to the inevitable
shoots of tender saplings, somehow regal in their ineffable infancies.
The fierceness of black skies fails to dampen enthusiasm for brightness,
a brightness enlivened by continuous revelations of zoetic jewels which vanish
as quickly as they appear but leave fiery imprints in the minds of all
who saw them. Surrounded by the hesitant mist of slowly emerging green,
one cannot look back but only forward—now is the season of the future;
not, as some think, in rebirth, but in accepting the verve of verdant,
voluptuous life entering a body wearied by darker days now past.
This, this is the expectant age which seems to stretch onward into
the hazy distance forever and forever until the delicately colored hills
become oceans of undreamt dreams awaiting discovery. And my pace is
no longer a stroll nor even a stately march but a run, undignified and unrestrained,
in pursuit of memories as yet unmade.

Don’t Chuck Your Muck in my Backyard

Today was the last day of classes. Like, the last day.

At least, it was supposed to be. But this morning, my only class was canceled (one other being canceled and another not meeting on purpose).

studious_cat

Me (except not at all)

Unless something pretty major changes in my life, I will not be a student in a class at school ever again. How exactly did I get here, again? Not that I’m not ready to be done with this phase of my life. Just…that I’m not quite ready to begin the next. Awks on my friends who have already gotten on with it. Or who are also graduating this year. What are we doing with out lives. It doesn’t help, of course, that the world is conspiring to ensure that I’m unemployed. Would that I had a job. But I’ll keep applying places because that’s really all you can do. Here’s hoping.

Bubba2016-4-7

Also, here’s a Bubba for the week.

Camaro2016-4-7

And a Camaro, looking super intelligent.

Still have some work to do, namely two papers and a poster. And, obviously, my dissertation (but we’re not thinking about that just now). It’ll be grand, right? Anyway, on to the rant of the week.

Yesterday morning, walking to school, it was a beautiful day but a trifle windy. And in that wind, great swirls of trash buffeted my feet and shins. Consistently, walking to school or the grocery store (or really anywhere from my house), I must maintain constant vigilance with each step in order to avoid the ever-present dog poop and occasional human vomit. Also, when it’s raining, the festering piles of partially decayed paper goop. Now let me say, this is not a uniform problem across Dublin and obviously Dublin is not the only place with these problems. But I’m only living in one place at the moment and it’s undeniably a massive issue in my immediate surrounds. It’s also an issue that I’m not really accustomed to.

Growing up, there was honestly not much litter. And certainly not public dog poop just hanging out on the sidewalk. There are fines and signs here, but no one seems to care. I don’t feel like my parents or teachers are loony, tree-hugging envirocrazies, but from a very young age, in basically every situation, I was raised to be mindful of the world around me. I want to say it was drilled into me, but it wasn’t really. Most of the time, it sort of went without saying. It didn’t take any thought to turn off the lights when you left a room, or recycle, or not litter. That was just the way it was done. I mean, not everyone who lives in Gig Harbor is a wonderful recycler and composter and so on but it is, I feel, a prevailing civic mindset. And it just makes me sad to walk down the street and see how disgusting it is. Like, all the time. Of course, I’m not really doing much to help and that’s part of the problem too. I don’t contribute to it, but I don’t help solve it either. Ugh, it’s just dumb. It’s a massive task to solve the world’s environmental issues. But there’s nothing massive about proper waste disposal, recycling, composting, turning off the lights, carpooling, and just generally taking an interest in the place you live.

Anyway. I won’t give you the whole academese blah-blah-blah about constructivism and the power of norms ect. ect. ect. but I will give you an awkward transition.

I didn’t realize that April is actually National Poetry Month (in the US, at least). How unwittingly apropos of me. This week’s selection is a tender sonnet by the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti. I recently came across it and memorized it almost straight away. It’s a response of sorts to an earlier poem (Willowwood–in particular, part III) by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, quoting a line as the poem’s epigraph. Apparently, the two were rather close and collaborated on a variety of projects. Anyway, this poem is an achingly beautiful reflection of love lost and I’d like to share it with you.

An Echo from Willowwood

“Oh ye, all ye who walk in willow-wood.”

Two gaz’d into a pool, he gaz’d and she,
Not hand in hand, yet heart in heart, I think,
Pale and reluctant on the water’s brink
As on the brink of parting which must be.
Each eyed the other’s aspect, she and he,
Each felt one hungering heart leap up and sink,
Each tasted bitterness which both must drink,
There on the brink of life’s dividing sea.
Lilies upon the surface, deep below
Two wistful faces craving each for each,
Resolute and reluctant without speech:—
A sudden ripple made the faces flow
One moment join’d, to vanish out of reach:
So these hearts join’d, and ah! were parted so.